The Art of Writing: Introduction to Arabic and Japanese Calligraphy Winter 2023

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Class Details

Calligraphy is an art of elegant penmanship that is closely connected to philosophy, spirituality, literature, and poetry. This course introduces students to two different traditions of calligraphy, namely those of Arabic and Japanese, exploring their distinct characters as well as similarities. How has master-apprentice learning shaped each? How have these artforms developed in modern times? How are different aesthetics valued in each? And what are the themes and ideas shared between these two different traditions? At the theoretical level, students will explore historical, cultural, philosophical, and spiritual backgrounds of Arabic and Japanese calligraphy as well as material dimensions of the two traditions-how inks, pens, brushes, and paper are produced. At the practical level, students will be introduced to the execution of lettering with traditional tools, exploring self-expression through the art of writing. Students will be encouraged to consider how balance can be found in that which comprises both order and chaos, form and obscurity, and word and image. In class (6 hours per week), students will engage in hands-on activities, learning the basic techniques of Arabic and Japanese calligraphy. Class time also includes short lectures on theoretical and practical aspects of the two traditions. Through this course, students will learn to use calligraphy as a meditation tool, one that cultivates inner focus and attention to breathing and bodily movements. Outside class, students will be required to practice daily ten-minute calligraphy meditation sessions. Evaluation for this course is based on attendance at each session, a final calligraphy work, and in-class presentation on the piece. No previous knowledge of Arabic/Japanese or experience with calligraphy is required for this course. The class is open to students interested in both/either of two calligraphy traditions.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 10
Expected: NA
Class#: 1186
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: final project or presentation
Prerequisites: n/a
Enrollment Preferences: Majors in Arabic Studies and the Department of Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures if the course is overenrolled.
Unit Notes: Eriko Okamoto is a research associate in Arabic Studies at Williams College. She has studied Arabic calligraphy in the US and the Middle East and has trained in Japanese calligraphy for over 20 years.
Materials/Lab Fee: $35
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration
WELL Winter Study Wellness

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